Recently, researchers at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda's (Gujarat) department of clothing and textile extracted a fabric from the fibre obtained from the pseudo stem of a banana plant. They claimed that it can work as an eco-friendly substitute to some mainstream fabrics. While some designers have already switched to similar eco-friendly options, others maintain a healthy balance.
"With increasing development and innovations in the world of fashion, there is a need for us to conserve the environment, and look for sustainable eco-friendly fabric. So, they are good for people, and for the environment," says designer Varun Bahl.
On the other hand, designer Shruti Sancheti feels that not just fruit and vegetable fibres, even technical materials can be used to create a more eco-friendly wardrobe. "Ecological disturbances and recent calamities have made one realise that natural vegetable, fruit and plant fibres can help the environment and contribute to sustainability. Even technical fabrics such as fibreglass, steel and copper, besides providing protection, have unique properties, making them an excellent choice for neo-age fashion," she says.
Taking a cue from this need, we get designers to suggest a few natural options that have the potential to become part of mainstream fashion.
Fabrics: "An alternate material that is generally not used as a fabric is sting plus. It is a strong and sustainable variety of cotton that is made from the stinging nettle plant. It doesn't even need much water. Another material that could be explored is seacell. It's a cellulose-based fibre, made from a mixture of wood, pulp, seaweed and algae. This material is already being used in sports innerwear at the moment."
Use: "I haven't used any experimental material as an alternate fabric yet. But I employ smart tailoring and digital printing, which when directly applied to fabrics, reduce the amount of water, energy and textile waste."
Fabrics: "Soy, hemp and bamboo are sustainable yarns that are gradually being developed for mass usage. In fact, bamboo is being increasingly used for kids clothing, towels and toys. These are all sustainable organic materials, and some of them even have anti-bacterial qualities. Also they don't leave non-biodegradable waste."
Use: "I have worked with banana fibre for accessories such as bags, during my stint at the Ministry of Rural Development in Karnataka."
Plastic can also be recycled to make clothes and embellishments (L), a dress made of hemp (R).
Fabrics: "A lot of different fibres such as bamboo, banana, lotus, hemp, kapok, and even pineapple can be used. They are eco-friendly, support the local economy, and have different properties which are highly useful - from banana being durable and hemp being light to bamboo being airy. On the other hand, kapok soaks moisture, lotus provides texture and pineapple is water-resistant. So, although these fibres are not popularly used for clothing, they make for great substitutes."
Use: "I have used ahimsa silk, which is different from traditional silk. For this, the cocoons are not killed to obtain the fibre. Hence, it's known as cruelty-free silk. I have also used a mix of hemp fibre with cotton in my collections."
Fabrics: "Muga, which is a yarn, is mainly used for home furnishings until a few years ago, and has found its way into fashion creations now. This yarn is now spun and woven to elevate the elegance and style in new-age garments. The most innovative introduction to textiles was the arrival of khadi woven with muga and tussar. One never imagined this to be possible; it also made khadi an all-season wear."
Use: "I have experimented a lot with yarns to create varied textures that make the handwoven fabric more contemporary to fortify its timelessness and beauty. For instance, I used organza yarn, which was limited to Benarasi saris in kanchipuram silk for my recent collection. Apart from this, I have infused muga and tussar in khadi to make the fabric more rich and elegant."
Fabrics: "Bamboo is great for clothes, if used in the right way."
Use: "I used plastic to make a jumpsuit, and ropes to make a gown, during my fashion school days."
Fabrics: "I would like to use plastic bags, which are normally thrown away. These can be used fantastically as embroidery material. We can use plastic to create heirlooms, which can be passed on to future generations."
Use: "I have used black plastic bags to create embroideries on dresses."